Bird of the Week: Painted Bunting

Painted Bunting

The male Painted Bunting is almost too beautiful to be believed, looking as if he has just flown out of a Matisse painting. His blue head contrasts sharply with a vibrant red body and vivid green wings, and his French name–nonpareil, or “without equal”–is well-earned. It’s little wonder these birds are highly prized for their beauty. Their good looks seem to breed vanity as well; male Painted Buntings are highly territorial and prone to violent fights over their territory. Sadly, their beauty and pride have made them vulnerable to the illegal wildlife trade. Easily tricked into traps by decoys, Painted Buntings have been victims of poachers since the time of Audubon, who described a cottage industry of trapping birds and shipping them to Europe, where they fetched high prices as pets. The practice continues to this day, with significant effects on regional populations. Fortunately, population decline seems to have leveled since the turn of the millennium, and diligent enforcement of wildlife smuggling laws will ensure that wild and free Painted Buntings return to our woods and feeders year after year.

Compiled by Owen Moorhead. Sources include the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and National Audubon Society.